Contempt: Judge Orders Wema Bank Officials to Appear Before Him Today

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By Davidson Iriekpen

A Federal High Court in Lagos has ordered that Wema Bank Plc and its six officials to appear before the court today to explain why they should not be sent to prison for disobeying the orders of the court.

The six senior officials of the bank have disobeyed the order of the court to appear before it.

The affected officials of the bank are the of the bank, Chairman Babatunde Kasali, Managing Director, Ademola Adebise, Deputy Managing Director, Moruf Oseni, Executive Directors, Wole Akinleye and Folake Sanu and the Company Secretary, Johnson Lebile.

The order of the court presided over by Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke was sequel to two different similar garnishee suits filed before it by a Lagos-based lawyer, Chief Ajibola Aribisala (SAN) on behalf of Heritage Bank, the first one against the Ondo State Government and the Attorney General of the state, and the second one against Idanre Local Government Universal Basic Education Authority, Ondo State Government and Attorney General of Ondo State.

Heritage Bank having obtained judgment against the two parties at an Ondo State High Court in the sum of N1 billion out of which N600 million has been paid leaving balance, while the judgment against Idanre Local Government Universal Basic Education Authority is in the sum of N405,431,460 .98.

Heritage Bank then initiated garnishee proceeding against the parties in the two
suits.

On  December 6, 2019, the court made the order against Wema Bank Plc absolute attaching the principal judgment sum of N134,034,175.41 but Wema Bank thereafter deposed to an affidavit that Ondo State Government has N744,771,993.3 standing to its credit and same has been attached in compliance with the order of the court.

But the bank refused to comply with the order of the court to pay the money despite the demand made by Aribisala  on behalf of Heritage Bank.

However, Wema Bank in its response letter claimed not to comply with the order of the court based on the notice of appeal and motion for stay of execution filed by the Ondo State Government at the Court of Appeal.

Thereafter, Heritage Bank caused the Registrar of the court to issue form 48, a notice of consequence of disobedience of order of the court against the officers of the bank citing contempt, still the order of the court was not obeyed by the bank.

Hence the need for the issuance of form 49 asking the parties cited for contempt to show and explain why order of committal should not be made against them for flagrantly disobeying the orders of the court.

On February 5, 2020 when the matter came up for hearing, Aribisala in his argument and submission before the court contended that it was obvious that parties cited for contempt are not in court and that the court must compel their presence in court.

He then urged the court to issue a bench warrant against the officials of Wema Bank cited for contempt to compel them to appear in court.

Counsel to Wema Bank, Mr. Wemimo Ogunde (SAN) contended that form 49 was filed and served on the parties and before then Wema Bank had already filed an application for stay of execution pending appeal and that the record of appeal has already been entered at the court of appeal.

Consequently, after listening to the two parties the court adjourned till 14th February 2020, for ruling.

Justice Aneke in his ruling relating to the two suits, said: “The said appeal lodged by the parties cited for contempt has nothing to do with the form 49 served on them for their failure to comply with the order of the court in respect to the order made absolute against Wema Bank.

“Accordingly, the parties cited for contempt are hereby given 72 hours from today till Monday, February 17, 2020 to appear before the court to explain why committal order would not be made against them for flagrant disobedience of the extant positive orders of the court.”